In this season of ghouls and goblins, beware the digital witches dangling clickbait from your inbox: they’re hungry for eyeballs and will sling wild tales to rope them in. If you aren’t careful, you’ll end up in a stew–or worse: totally misled about the function of job data in understanding the real state of the labor market.
Recently we’ve seen reportage on the rise of the so-called “Ghost Job”–a listed job that hiring managers do not actually intend to fill. Last month Bloomberg picked up this thread, commenting on data that purports job ghosting has cut both ways. The story is that candidates say they’re twice as likely to be ignored by hiring managers as they were pre-pandemic and that the average job posting is only about half as likely to result in a real hire.
Let’s take these claims one at a time.
First of all, the concern points to reports from “ghosted” jobseekers to suggest employers aren’t actually making hires. Putting to the side that candidate surveys are a notoriously subjective and unreliable indicator of anything, it’s self-evident that companies ghosting candidates does not mean they’re posting ghost jobs. If in one morning any jobseeker with Wi-Fi can blitz their resume across a dozen job boards and 100 openings, can we really be surprised when their inbox, come afternoon, doesn’t match that manic output? Hiring managers are looking to engage the right candidate, not every candidate.
This points to the real problem lurking behind the alleged hiring specter: it’s Bad Data, and heaps of it. Job Boards, where the hulking majority of resumes are flung from across the digital void, are bursting at the seams with polluted listings and job scams of every flavor: fake jobs, phishing jobs, expired jobs, duplicate listings, syndicated job ads, headhunter postings, lions and tigers and bears: oh, my!
It’s a parade of false and inflated labor signals that grows by what it feeds on–a craving for clicks. In the case of legit employers, real listings become, when handed off to advertisers, hydra-headed monsters of duplication showing up across the internet and registering as many unique jobs instead of the factual one. To make matters worse, outright fraud has found fertile ground on Job Boards, where scammers post invented listings by the thousands to coax sensitive information or worse still, credit card numbers, copies of driver’s licenses, or payments for bogus administrative fees, from vulnerable job seekers desperate for work. And of course the sites themselves stand to gain from the swell of listings—more data to resell means more cash in their pockets.
So we can’t be surprised when analysts mining job market data from Job Boards conclude that listings outnumber jobs: the data they’re pulling from is distorted.